LONDON - British actor Alan Rickman, who played the role of Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films and portrayed memorable villains in Hollywood movies, has died aged 69, his agent said on Thursday. 

Rickman got his big acting break appearing the Broadway version of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" in the mid-1980s before making his first major film appearance as Hans Gruber in "Die Hard" soon afterwards.

That was to be the first of many performances as a villain, including the Sheriff of Nottingham in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves." In addition to the Potter films, he starred in "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," "Truly Madly Deeply" and "Love, Actually".

In a statement his family said he had died after a battle with cancer.

Rickman won a Golden Globe and an Emmy for TV biopic "Rasputin," and a BAFTA for "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves." He was BAFTA-nominated for "Michael Collins," "Sense and Sensibility" and "Truly Madly Deeply."

He recently completed "Alice Through the Looking Glass," in which he provided the voice of the Caterpillar.

He made his directorial debut with 1997's "The Winter Guest," which played in competition in Venice, and also directed 2014's "A Little Chaos," which ran at the Toronto Film Festival.